The Pandemic Prods Us To Get Our Affairs in Order – What documents have taken on more immediate importance as the pandemic continues? Here is a list of documents to seriously consider dealing with immediately:
- Advance Health Care Directive — Sometimes called a patient advocate designation or health care proxy, this document names someone to make health care decisions for you. You can describe your preferences for end-of-life care.
- Last will and testament — Many states even allow a holographic will. If you choose to create one that is written entirely in your own handwriting, make sure it covers the basics:
- Names someone as the executor.
- Names a guardian to care for your minor children, if necessary.
- Describes how to divide up your assets, including any charitable gifts.
- Once it is written, take a picture of it, email it to your executor, and tell him or her where to find the original.
- Financial Power of Attorney — This document gives someone legal authority to manage your financial and property affairs while you’re still living. This may be particularly useful if you’re stuck somewhere — in quarantine or the hospital — and need someone to pay your bills, file your taxes, hold your mail or do any of the tasks that keep your life running. Choose someone you trust completely, such as a spouse, sibling or best friend.
The hardest part about implementing these three documents will be signing them in a legally valid way. Requirements across states differ, but most require two witnesses who are physically present for the signing. Witnessing using remote videoconferencing software may not be enough.
Many states also require the witnesses be disinterested, meaning a witness can’t be your spouse or someone who benefits from whatever you are signing. One socially distant technique is to meet your witnesses in a parking lot so everyone can see you sign your documents through the windows of your car. For health reasons, be sure everyone signs with their own pen.
An attorney might oversee the meeting in an oversized conference room or outdoors in a park or your front yard. A traditional notary might even receive an acknowledgment in a drive-by meeting while you remain in your car.
The current health crisis reminds us that life is fragile and unpredictable. The pandemic turned our lives upside down in a matter of weeks. With so much uncertainty, knowing your plans are in place and that your loved ones are provided for can be comforting.
An estate planning attorney can guide you through the process in a relatively short time to make sure that what you really want is being conveyed in the documents.
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